For those who knows me well, will know about my tea obsession and addiction. I have a set way I like to brew it and my day doesn’t seem to start without it!
Luckily I have worked on my problem over the years with some help and am proud to say I have cut down from 16 cups a day with two sugars… to 4 cups and one sugar… mainly because the acid reflux was getting too much to handle!
Being a big tea drinker I was excited to be doing workshops with WASH United in Sylhet and spending time with the people who work on the Tea Gardens. With a global tea market worth over US$ 20 billion I am not quite sure what I was expecting to see, but the living conditions for the labourers from the gardens here was an eye opener; low wages, poor sanitation and hygiene and for many no education. Unfortunately for some of the families we met, they had lost their fathers, so the young children had left school to help support. Most of the homes were made of tin with one room with a bed and a few pots and pans. Toilets facilities varied from a hole in the ground behind a sheet, to some who had been able to take on the information and built their own toilet.
We spent time delivering workshops and training sessions for young females in the community and educating teachers sanitation and hygience, particularly menstration manangement. It was nice to get time to hang out with the families in their home, drinking tea and eating lovely food they cooked for us. After being there for 5 minutes I felt completely at home, the people were friendly, welcoming, fed us and talked openly. The kids were great and had the biggest smiles on their face.
Finding out about their stories. the thing that stood out to me the most was how important education is. I am a realist and know we are not going to solve the world’s problems of poverty for a long time, and sometimes it is just the way the world works. I have had to learn to not become frustrated and angry by it, more accept life as it is and see what changes can be made . What I would say is I could see the power of education to improve the quality of lives. IDEA the local development partner have been present in the community over the last 3 years, bringing safe water pumps, building an education centre for the children on site and working with the families to develop safe sanitation and hygiene practises in the communities. It takes a long time to create the behaviour change and it was evident this work is starting to pay off.
Talking with the families it became fascinating how the young children were becoming agents of change and teachers to their families helping break down taboos and share safe practise to benefit the wellbeing of the whole family. The young girls were so empowered by the knowledge and I had no doubt future generations were going to see the benefits and was a great way to spend the last few day in Sylhet.
Before leaving for Dhaka I managed to fulfill another bucket list item with thanks to Ananya and Ina… this time I got to drive a motorised rickshaw!!! Not sure it was the most smooth journey … but getting to do the beep beep beep down the streets of sylhet was ridiculous fun!
So it was off from Sylhet and back to Dhaka to do some promotional work around the stadiums. Happy the Handwashing Tiger was in full force hanging out with the crowd and playing musical toilets.